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Standoff at border deadlocks

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AFP

Buddhist monks file up the stairs at Preah Vihear during a prayer ceremony for peace at the temple last weekend. Although Thailand’s cabinet has approved the withdrawal of some troops, Cambodian commanders say Thai soldiers have crossed the border at several other points since the temple standoff began on July 15.

ANOTHER round of crisis talks over the military standoff at Preah Vihear are expected later this month, but Cambodian troops along the de facto frontline near the 11th-century temple say they are hunkering down for a protracted dispute.

"Our soldiers are digging trenches because the Thai soldiers are digging trenches," General Srey Doek, commander of Brigade 12, told the Post on Thursday. "We have to take precautions, this is a frontline," he added.

While Thailand's cabinet has approved the withdrawal of troops from Preah Vihear temple, Srey Doek said that the Thai military appeared to be bringing in reinforcements to strategic Cambodia-controlled positions along the border.

"They are digging more bunkers and building large encampments to settle on the frontline at Preah Vihear temple and Trop mountain," he said, referring to a mountain near the temple that Cambodia claims Thai troops tried to occupy last weekend. "We absolutely have to prevent them getting up ... Trop mountain because it is right in the middle of the disputed area," Srey Doek said.

In Phnom Penh, officials remained optimistic that the Thais would re-deploy, with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith telling the Post that "some of Thailand's soldiers have withdrawn from the pagoda [in the Preah Vihear temple complex] and they have withdrawn all their troops from Ta Moan Thom temple."

"If they increase their armed forces in their territory along our joint border, it is their business," he said.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong is scheduled to meet with his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag in Thailand on August 18 for a second round of talks aimed at defusing the situation at Preah Vihear, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday.

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